Go-Anywhere Confidence

By Derek Price

There are some lessons that can’t be learned in the local Miata club.
Among them: When the temperature drops into the single digits, make sure you use an engine block heater and fuel additive if you’re driving a diesel.
That’s what I had to learn from experience, though, when snowmageddon hit Texas a few weeks ago and rendered the perfect vehicle for the circumstances — the new diesel-powered Jeep Gladiator — completely listless in my frozen driveway, unable to start in the frigid weather.
Fortunately for me, a Jeep-loving neighbor came to the rescue. I warmed up the engine block, added a dose of anti-gel chemicals to the fuel, and it fired up like magic, ready to do the job it was built for: getting people anywhere they need to go, even when there aren’t roads.
That’s a useful trait when you can’t see any pavement for miles around because it’s all buried under snow and ice. Texas looked and felt like Siberia for a few long days, but having a Gladiator Rubicon 4×4 at my disposal made the situation a mere inconvenience.

Even at the peak of the bitter cold, the Gladiator had no trouble getting around town when there were few other vehicles on the road. It struggled for grip at times, like every vehicle does when traversing a natural skating rink, but it never once got stuck. It drove with a self-confident swagger, bordering on smugness, past countless other vehicles stranded and mangled up in ditches on the side of the road.

The Jeep Gladiator pickup is now available with a diesel engine. The 3.0-liter EcoDiesel is rated for 28 mpg in highway driving, an impressive number for a heavy, off-road-capable truck.

Heck, the Gladiator was downright comfortable when just about every other aspect of life in Texas was not.
When rolling power outages shut off the lights at home, the Jeep’s power outlet always worked. It kept phones charged and modern life somewhat normal when the utility company couldn’t do the same.
The luxury of watching a Jeep start up by remote control, then melt ice off the windshield when it’s 6 degrees outside, felt more sumptuous and coddling under the circumstances than anything I’ve experienced in a Rolls-Royce before.
It also was a great reminder that a Jeep’s greatest appeal is something few other vehicles on the planet can match: confidence.
Any time disaster hits, some of the first vehicles you see out on the roads are Jeeps. Hurricanes, floods, ice storms and tornadoes create conditions on the ground that require vehicles like this with ridiculously high ground clearance, four-wheel-drive grip, traction-control wizardry and tires that can claw their way through all kinds of muck.
I’ve always been a sports-car person, but this experience makes me want to become a Jeep person. There’s a survivalist’s satisfaction in knowing that no matter what Mother Nature whips up, you’ve got a vehicle designed to help get you through it.
Aside from the cold-weather starting problem — something I chalk up to my inexperience in arctic weather, not a design flaw — the diesel engine seemed like a perfect fit for the Gladiator. It makes 260 horsepower and, more importantly in a heavy, built-to-work vehicle like this, 442 pound-feet of torque.

The Gladiator’s cabin closely mirrors the latest Wrangler. It’s designed to be driven without a top or doors for an open-air experience in nature.

It pulls like a tugboat yet still delivers decent fuel economy. The Sport and Overland trims are rated at 28 mpg on the highway with the diesel engine, compared to a thirsty 22 with the gasoline V6. My built-for-off-roading Rubicon tester is rated at a less impressive 25 mpg with the diesel, but still better than the gas-powered Jeep truck.
In addition to the diesel engine, two new special editions are available this year. The 80th Anniversary Edition has berber floor mats, special badges and handsome 18-inch wheels with a Crystal Granite finish. The retro-themed Willys comes with rock rails, a limited-slip differential and massive, 32-inch Mud-Terrain tires.
Pricing for the 2021 Gladiator starts at $33,565. The configurator at Jeep.com shows pricing for a whopping 11 different trims of this truck, topping out at $51,765 for the luxury-oriented High Altitude model. The new diesel engine is a $4,000 option.
Confidence during natural disasters comes at no extra charge.

At A Glance

What was tested? 2021 Jeep Gladiator Rubicon 4×4 ($43,875). Options: Premium paint ($245), leather-trimmed bucket seats ($1,595), trailer tow package ($350), cold weather group ($995), premium LED lighting group ($1,295), 8.4-inch radio and premium audio group ($1,895), active safety group ($895), hardtop headliner ($555), cargo management group ($895), roll-up tonneau cover ($595), Freedom Panel storage bag delete (-$120), 8-speed automatic transmission ($2,000), diesel engine ($4,000), keyless entry ($545), Freedom Top ($2,395), body-color fender flares ($695), steel bumper ($845), 17-inch wheels ($995), spray-in Berliner ($495), TrailCam ($595). Price as tested (including $1,495 destination charge): $67,130
Wheelbase: 137.3 in.
Length: 218 in.
Width: 73.8 in.
Height: 75 in.
Engine: 3.0-liter turbo diesel V6 (260 hp, 442 ft.-lbs.)
Transmission: Eight-speed automatic
Fuel economy: 21 city, 27 highway

Style: 9
Performance: 10
Price: 4
Handling: 4
Ride: 6
Comfort: 6
Quality: 7
Overall: 9

Why buy it?
It delivers confidence when Mother Nature is at her worst. It mixes the get-anywhere capability of a Jeep with the utility of a pickup truck.

Posted in Jeep